Toward Obedience

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Peter 1:1-2

The first two verses of most New Testament letters are jam-packed with theological information. I get the feeling that most people gloss over these short introductions. Why do I get that feeling? Because that is my own tendency. Yet, if we slow down, we will find much to glean from these verses besides just whom the author is writing to. In these verses from Peter, we get a glimpse into the the process and purpose of salvation.

Peter writes to the elect–a nice, compact word that tends to invigorate discussion within the church. That topic is not one that I plan on commenting aside from mentioning that the foreknowledge of God plays a crucial role. There is a mystery in the concept designed, I believe, to push us into a deeper pursuit of the Person(s) of God to know him more intimately. What is clear is that Peter is writing to people who have Jesus as their Savior. (More specifically, his audience includes primarily Jews: exiles of the Dispersion from Israel.)

So, these people have been saved; their journey with God has begun. The phrase in the sanctification of the Spirit indicates the initiation and the continuation of the process of salvation. As we live our lives, the Spirit has to play a major role in our edification. He builds us up. We have not been saved by grace so as to suddenly be able to start working whole-heartedly for our salvation under our own power. God wasn’t satisfied to start us on a journey in order to let us go on by ourselves. Often, I think that we treat salvation as if the process is Deist–that God starts it up and lets us go without playing any other role. No. He wants to walk with us alongside us and continue to work with us and in us on the road of salvation.

Just in case, however, we think that works are entirely foreign, there is the next phrase: for obedience to Jesus Christ. People often portray Jesus as this picture of grace that precludes hard work, as if the Mosaic Law was a burden and Christ relieved us of it. While much of what Christ accomplished did away with certain aspects of the Law (not everyone must live culturally as a Jew in order to find God), a lot of what Jesus taught actually multiplied the Law because he revealed the heart/purpose of the Law: that people weren’t just supposed to look right on the outside but that the inside needed to be transformed (see Matt. 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount). So, the Spirit drives us toward a sanctification of obeying Christ, of encountering this transformation.

The sprinkling with his blood refers to the sprinkling of Old Testament blood sacrifices. Among other things, the sprinkling symbolizes the effectiveness of the sacrifice and the fulfillment of its purpose. Jesus paid the price and we are effectively covered and forgiven when we surrender and receive his sacrifice.

As a Christian, are you following the Spirit unto sanctification to obey what Jesus has called you to do and the person he desires you to become? Have you said “yes” to Jesus in terms of salvation without continually seeking the Spirit to lead you to a more complete obedience to his commands? Take some time to think about it.

Following along the lines of Peter’s commendation, May grace and peace be multiplied to you as you continue on this journey of salvation with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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